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The Victory Garden MAG
"Rachel!Come see what I planted!" My brother Josh exclaimed with boyish glee thatmade him seem more like eleven than 24.
"Why?" I asked inexasperation, not even looking up from my novel.
"Would you just comeand see?" he asked, annoyed. "It will only take a second, Ipromise."
I reluctantly stood up and walked down our driveway to thegardens. I looked at the flowers my brother had just planted and cocked my headto the side. They were unmistakably planted in the form of the Americanflag.
"See, it's the American flag," Josh explained. "Ieven counted out 50 flowers to represent the stars, and made the 13 stripes. Whatdo you think?"
"I think you're pathetic and have way too muchtime on your hands," I said, laughing. Josh had just graduated from theUniversity of Michigan and soon he would be going to Texas to repay his ROTCscholarship with service to the Army as a Second Lieutenant. He thought it was amarvelous and creative idea to leave this American flag behind. I thought he wasa crazy nationalist.
A week later he was gone. He called frequently totell us what he had been doing and how much fun he was having. Once he called andI was the only one who was home.
"Hey Rache, guess what! I've beenaccepted into Air Defense Artillery, which means I'll learn how to jump fromplanes into enemy territory."
"That's cool, I've always wantedto jump out of planes and stuff. You're so lucky," I said with envy. Heasked about school and told me not to worry about history class, or my chemistrytest. He said he had faith in me, and before he hung up he told me that he lovedme. It was strange, I never told him I loved him, and he had never told me heloved me before. It was sort of a known thing, but it made me feel better anyway.I smiled and went to bed.
The next day was September 11th. My firstthought was selfish: Thank God I don't know anyone in the World Trade Center. Butmy second thought turned my heart to ice: What's going to happen to my brother?That evening we tried to call him but he wasn't home. My mom grew nervous andleft several panicked messages on his answering machine.
I decided Ineeded to put up a facade in front of my mother so I would seem strong andreassuring. I told her, "Mom, Josh is in Texas and nothing happened in Texasso he's okay. There is no reason to worry; he's not even done with training. Infact, he's got a whole month left. They wouldn't send some untrained idiot to theMiddle East."
"You're right," my mother admitted,"but it's a mother's duty to be worried about her children. I don't like theidea that your brother is in the Army. I don't like it that he's so far fromhome."
"It's going to be fine. After he's finished withtraining, he'll just get sent to Korea like he's supposed to," I saidreassuringly.
That night my friend called. "I hope we find out whodid this and get back at them," she said.
Once again I felt thecoldness come over my heart. I pictured my brother jumping from a plane andlanding in Afghanistan, with bombs flying everywhere.
"How can yousay that?" I asked. "That might be all fine and good for you to seekretaliation! Your brother isn't in the Army. Your brother isn't going to be sentinto war!" I hung up.
School continued. Life continued. Thoughts ofmy brother were pushed to the far reaches of my brain. As I left the house onemorning to go to school, I noticed my mother outside with acamera.
"Mom, what are you doing?" I asked.
"I'mtaking pictures for your brother. I thought he'd like to see a picture of hisfavorite maple tree. I took pictures of the American flag at the end of thedriveway as well. I know he would have liked to see how beautifully it'sbloomed," she explained.
"What are you doing that for? He shouldbe coming home soon." I kissed her good-bye, got in the car, and droveaway.
School was a great place to hide what I was feeling. I was able toact like the usual me - happy, giggly, and always smiling. Inside, though, I wasde-pressed. Every breath I took seemed to grip tightly at my lungs. My throatoften felt tight, and I couldn't speak sometimes. It was tough to go around withthis foreboding feeling that something was about to happen, and there was nothingI could do to prevent it.
One morning as I was leaving for school Inoticed my mom's note to my dad:
Heavy frost tonight. Bring in the pottedflowers. Don't cover the flowers at the end of the driveway. It's time to saygood-bye to them.
It's time to say good-bye. Time to say good-bye.Good-bye. These words stuck in my brain and all I heard was good-bye, good-bye,good-bye. It was agonizing. It was torture. It was saying good-bye to a chapterof my life that involved youth and innocence. I couldn't get past the thoughtthat my older brother was now going to be "Josh the Protector," in moreways than one. There was great danger in that thought. There was a possibility Imay have to say good-bye for good. There was a possibility that my family wouldnever be the same again. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't move. I felt the hottears fall down my face, and I didn't attempt to stop them. I released the crythat I'd been holding in for weeks. The note dropped to the ground, I dropped tothe ground. "I love you too, Josh," I whispered. I had finally releasedeverything I'd been holding inside. In the back of my mind I thought of what Joshwould say,
I know you do, Rache. Everything's going to be all right.